OUTRAGE - Arnaldur Indridason
When an author switches viewpoint in a long-running, popular series there's always a risk that some readers will be disappointed. Personally I find it can be one of the more satisfying uses of an ensemble cast, as was the case in OUTRAGE. Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason has switched the viewpoint away from his normal main character Erlendur, to one of the lesser characters in the earlier books - Detective Elinborg.
Erlendur is around, more by way of reference than physically, as he appears to have headed off to the East Fjords, where he lived as a young boy. Given his fractured family it's possibly not surprising that he's dropped off the radar, although there is something at the end of the book that may intrigue some readers. Sigurdur Oli is present in this book, but in a low-key way.
Elinborg is investigating the discovery of the body of a young man, throat slashed, lying on the floor of his own home. Whilst the woman's shawl found in the apartment makes sense as a possible clue, it's a lingering smell that tweaks Elinborg's interest. Readers of earlier books will know that Elinborg is particularly known for her cooking, and it's that private passion that makes that smell something that she can work with.
This book is really doing what often happens in a debut, introducing and expanding on a central protagonist. In earlier books Elinborg has been very much a bit player, so OUTRAGE really gives readers a chance to get to know more about another member of Erlunder's team. The downside of that is that the plot of the book does take a while to get going, although once underway, it's actually quite clever. And uses some interesting cultural perspectives along the way.
There's an ongoing thread in all of Indridason's books about the nature of family, parental guilt and the difficulties with balancing personal lives and work commitments. Earlier books have taken readers into the relationship that Erlendur struggles to maintain with his own children, and the death of his brother when they were both children and the impact that has on his every day life. This book looks at Elinborg's own difficulties balancing the roles of wife, mother and police detective. The case revolves around family as well - the family of the victim, as well as the family of the perpetrator all play a part. Particularly interesting for this reader was the subtle comparison between the young teenage son of Elinborg and his relationship with his mother, and the very different teenage boy and his different relationship with his own mother in the earlier life of the murder victim. As always this mix of the personal and the professional creates the opportunity for readers to find some way of connecting with these characters, and, as with the early Erlendur books there's a great feeling of place, and culture built into OUTRAGE.
Despite the different viewpoint, and despite the plot of the book taking a while to move into focus, OUTRAGE really is another excellent, atmospheric, intricate and fascinating book.
In a flat near Reykjavik city centre, a young man lies dead in a pool of blood. There is no sign of a break-in: the only clues are a woman's purple shawl, found under the bed in the next room, and a vial of prescription drugs in the victim's pocket.
With Detective Erlendur away in a remote part of Iceland, Detective Elinborg, who is already struggling to juggle family life and the relentless demands of her job, is assigned the case. Her investigation into the murdered man's past soon uncovers a squalid tale of double lives, drug dealers and the unsolved disappearance of a young girl many years before.